Set Your Tivo: 02.16.10Posted by THager on February 16th, 2010
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
#25 Wake Forest @ Virginia Tech – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)
This game might feature two of the most underrated teams in the entire country. It took a four-game winning streak for Wake Forest to crack the bottom of the top 25, and the 20-4 Hokies are still unranked in both polls. In fact, Virginia Tech ranks just #50 in the RPI and are still considered by many to be a bubble team. VT’s out of conference schedule is weak, but with four straight wins against ACC opponents, they are 7-3 in the league, just half a game behind Wake Forest and still in contention to win the conference. Before the Hokies can even think about an ACC title, though, they need to prove their legitimacy against a solid Wake Forest team. This game may only end up in the low 60s for both teams, as neither ranks in the top 70 in offensive efficiency, and both rank among the top 20 defensive teams. Virginia Tech, whose leading scorer shoots below 40%, ranks #113 in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive ratings, so a below-average shooting night could bring this game down to the 50s. If the Hokies want to be successful tonight, they are going to have to stop Wake Forest in the post. Led by Al-Farouq Aminu, the Demon Deacons score the majority of their points from forwards and centers, and they rank third in the nation in rebounds per game. Virginia Tech has not lost in Blacksburg yet, but they will face their toughest test of the season tonight.
Cincinnati @ South Florida – 7 pm on ESPNU (**)
With their recent performances, South Florida played itself out of the tournament and Cincinnati is on the verge of playing themselves back in. USF has lost their last two games to other bubble teams (Notre Dame and Marquette) and are now not even in Joe Lunardi’s first eight teams out. The Bearcats, on the other hand, are coming off a game in which they held UConn to their lowest point total since 2002, and are now the second team out according to Lunardi. Like the Wake Forest vs. Virginia Tech matchup, this game will also be extremely low scoring. Both teams give up less than 66 points per game, and neither ranks in the top 70 in offensive efficiency. Cincinnati has no players scoring over 12 points per game, and they rank #112 in offensive efficiency. On paper, it would seem like USF would score more than 68.9 points per game, with four players averaging over 10 points per game and two players scoring over 17 points per game. However, one reason for that is Gus Gilchrist just returned from an injury that kept him sidelined since December 2. In his first game back against Marquette, he scored 10 points below his season average of 17.4 (most of USF’s earlier games were against weaker teams), but if he can provide some quality minutes and score close to what he did earlier in the year, USF should be able to win this game. Cincinnati is just 2-6 on the road this year, and despite a relatively empty crowd at the Sun Dome, the Bulls should at least play themselves back in the bubble discussion.
#2 Kentucky @ Mississippi State – 9 pm on ESPN (****)
In an ESPN poll, over 99% of voters chose Kentucky to win this game, and while I would also pick the Wildcats, this game is far from being a potential blowout. For starters, the crowd is going to be a huge factor, as shown by the early abuse DeMarcus Cousins has already received from MSU fans via his cell phone. The Bulldogs have played well in Starkville this season, with 12 straight home wins following an opening night upset by Rider. If Mississippi State can keep up their stellar play in the paint, they have a chance to pull one of the biggest upsets of the season. With shot-blocking extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado dominating in the post, the Bulldogs rank second in the country in blocks per game and sixth in rebounds per game. Thanks to Cousins, Kentucky also ranks among the nation’s leaders in rebounds per game, but if Varnado can grab most of the contested rebounds, they will keep the game close. Ravern Johnson, MSU’s leading scorer at 13.7 points per contest, is coming off a three-point effort against Auburn, and if the Bulldogs want to see an RTC tonight, they are going to need at least 15 points from him. UK may win, but this game will go down to the wire.